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Planning Strategically for 2030

Thinking Long Range

Flagship 2030'long planning horizon was chosen because we wanted to challenge ourselves to consider the educational and developmental needs of students yet to be born—the generation beyond iPods, MySpace, and Blackberries. We wanted our faculty to think outside the constraints of next year's syllabus or next week's committee meeting. We deliberately devised our strategic planning process to provide ourselves the freedom to think beyond the encumbrances of more immediate problems and conditions.

Planning for a 25-year horizon is filled with unknowns. In a sense, one can argue that this strategic plan seeks to educate our students for jobs that do not yet exist, to solve problems we have not yet imagined, using techniques we have not yet developed. However, the university can reap great benefits from anticipating the broad directions learning and discovery will take as we prepare to become more agile in the face of change.

Our first strategic planning challenge was to imagine the characteristics of the leading national comprehensive universities of 2030. What will the flagships of tomorrow look like? Will they be more or less specialized? How will students best learn? Will they have a different curriculum? How will research projects be organized to find the best solutions? How will CU-Boulder promote the advancement of knowledge and understanding to benefit society? Many such questions emerged as we engaged in a number of discussions focused on how higher education will evolve during the next 25 years.

Our next task was to develop a vision for how CU-Boulder will look and act in 2030. To be successful, our entire academic community and its stakeholders must share an overarching vision for the university's future—a vision that will inspire and guide us in the decades ahead. Over the past year, we have collaborated to create a vision that articulates what we aspire to become and focuses on defining the flagship of the future.

In the coming months, the university community will hone this strategic plan into a set of action plans based on timelines of 12 to 18 months, 3 to 5 years, and 12 to 15 years. These action plans, including performance benchmarks, will point us toward realizing our strategic vision.

Flagship 2030 will play a central role in the university's future fundraising campaigns. The concepts developed here will provide guidance to our efforts to enhance private giving, and we are confident potential donors will find compelling reasons to invest in the university's future as we implement this strategic plan.

The Process

In the summer of 2006, the three campuses of the University of Colorado were asked by the CU Board of Regents and CU President Hank Brown to develop strategic plans. In this process, campuses were asked to focus on student success, quality and excellence, and resource development.

At CU-Boulder, our strategic planning process has taken both a top-down and a bottom-up approach; university leadership launched the effort, but the plan reflects the work of hundreds who have engaged in campus-wide, statewide, and nationwide conversations about CU-Boulder's future. Chancellor G.P. "Bud" Peterson called on the university community to move beyond the typical five-year action plan and develop a global, long-range vision. We recruited a 54-member steering committee made up of faculty, staff, students, local community members, and other stakeholders to guide the planning process. Subject matter experts and other core contributors—representing faculty, community members, alumni, and staff—assisted the committee.

We believe that CU-Boulder can transform itself only if we engage and listen to everyone invested in the university's future. With this in mind, we organized a series of seven open forums to encourage campus conversations, providing opportunities for strategic dialogue on transforming CU-Boulder for the world of 2030. Hundreds of faculty, staff, and students participated in the seven forums. Questions were raised, ideas were shared, and voices were heard. We launched a Flagship 2030 website to share information and promote participation in the planning process. We sought ideas and viewpoints from civic and government leaders across the state. We also sought feedback from the CU Board of Regents and conducted focus group interviews with Colorado business and community leaders.

Central Questions

As part of the Flagship 2030 planning process, members of the steering committee organized into subcommittees assigned to address six central questions that would help guide the plan's development. Those questions were:

  1. What will students need to know in 2030?
  2. What will the state of Colorado need from the university in 2030?
  3. To what needs will our research, scholarship, and creative work respond?
  4. What should our relationship be with the Boulder community over this period?
  5. What will the university community be like in 2030?
  6. What financial and operational models will be necessary for success in 2030?

It is important to understand that Flagship 2030 is a strategic framework—not intended as an exhaustive description of everything the university will strive to do over the next quarter-century. It represents the collective vision and thoughts of many constituents and experts who have provided guidance to the university's leadership. We anticipate the plan will be refined and amended over time, but that its core objectives will be realized—to excel in the performance of our role and mission, to support the people of Colorado, and to engage with the global community.

Following a number of broad-ranging discussions, each subcommittee submitted a report that included projections, analyses, and recommendations for action. These reports played a central role in the overall development of the strategic plan. They also will help drive our next steps, including the development of detailed action plans.

Copies of the subcommittee reports are available in the Supporting Documentation.

The LEAP Project

CU-Boulder's planning process benefited significantly from external input obtained from a statewide initiative. Six local leaders from each of 16 communities were interviewed in a project sponsored by the CU-Boulder Leadership Education for Advancement and Promotion (LEAP) program. LEAP is a National Science Foundation-funded effort to develop a cadre of effective leaders who will advance both their individual fields of study and the university as a whole.

The following Colorado communities, representing all areas of the state, were chosen for the project: Alamosa, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Greeley, La Junta, Lamar, Limon, Longmont, Pueblo, Steamboat Springs, Sterling, and Vail. The six leaders interviewed in each community included the mayor, the school superintendent, the publisher of the local newspaper, the chamber of commerce executive, an active high school parent leader, and a community representative.

During the interviews, we asked the local leaders two questions: "What will Colorado be like in the year 2030?" and "How can CU-Boulder best serve the state?" Interview summaries revealed a thoughtful and positive response to the university's effort to transform itself for the future. Overarching themes from the discussions included:

  1. Support for CU-Boulder's role in preparing the workforce of the future
  2. Recognition of CU-Boulder's role as the flagship university
  3. High expectations of the university as a "public trust"
  4. Recognition of difficult financial challenges, but expectations of fair access

Looking ahead to 2030, many Colorado community leaders believe the state will be operating in an increasingly global economy and expect dramatic changes in Colorado demographics. Some believe that natural resources management, especially air and water issues, will dominate Colorado's concerns and that renewable energy will be a leading economic and technological focus. Community leaders feel that CU-Boulder, as the flagship university, should be financially strong while providing affordable access to Coloradans. Some feel that CU-Boulder needs to reach out more to rural Colorado and help solve local problems.

A complete report of the LEAP interview project, with highlights of the discussions, is provided online in our Supporting Documentation.